DEVILLE: Unlucky or snakebitten?

It would have been hard to imagine after LSU's 64-52 win over then-No. 6 Texas A&M on Dec. 5 where the Tigers would stand halfway through the SEC schedule.

LSU was ranked as high as No. 5 in the nation at one point this season. But now, after 22 games, the Tigers are 13-9 overall and an abysmal 2-7 in SEC play.


What we were once calling a skid after the loss at Georgia became a slide when LSU lost to Alabama at home last Wednesday. That slide grew into an all-out freefall when John Brady's Tigers went to Starkville on Saturday and lost their fifth straight – an 85-78 defeat at the hands of Mississippi State.


A year removed from one of the most magical runs in the program's history, the defending SEC champions fell into sole possession of last place in the SEC Western Division with Saturday's loss.




The question as to where LSU will be seeded in the NCAA Tournament has grown into an "if":  Will the Tigers even make the tournament? With seven games left in SEC play, including trips to Kentucky, Tennessee, Ole Miss and Auburn and home games remaining with Mississippi State, South Carolina and defending national champion Florida, the question might become this:  Can the Tigers win another game?


After LSU got blown out by Arkansas on the road, the Tigers have found creative ways to lose close games night after night. After suffering the most offensively anemic night in recent memory in an 11-point loss to Vanderbilt, Brady's team has dropped back-to-back three-point losses to Georgia and Alabama,  and it fell by eight points to State after the game was tied with less than eight minutes left in the game.


Is it bad luck or are the Tigers just snake bitten?


LSU is no doubt talented.


Three of five starters returned from last season's Final Four team as well as several members of the supporting cast. Plus, Brady was thought to have brought in a couple of quality transfers.


As the season spirals out of control for the 2007 Tigers, fingers are beginning to get pointed. And the most popular culprit is always Brady. One of the fans' favorite whipping posts in years past, Brady silenced his critics with last year's league crown and NCAA Tournament run.


My, how a five-game losing streak can turn a fickle fan base on a coach. Brady is taking the brunt of the criticism, and he is shouldering the blame like any coach is supposed to do.


First and foremost, for the numbskulls out there calling for his job – get a life. Brady won an SEC title and went to the Final Four a year ago. He has proven himself as a coach in this league and doesn't deserve the boneheaded criticism he gets constantly from the hotheads out there.


However, there are some things that do fall on the coach's shoulders. The point guard position has always been an area of concern for Brady-coached LSU teams. Tack Minor came to LSU as the Tigers' next great point guard, but his disappointing career came to a depressing end last week when he was dismissed from school. Darrel Mitchell was about as close to a true point guard as the Tigers have had under Brady.


Another glaring problem with this LSU team is its consistency. Sure, it is impressive when Glen Davis bounces out and shoots a 3-pointer, much like he did in a 27-point performance against State on Saturday. But the Tigers are better served when Davis is in the paint doing the things he did in the past in leading LSU to a slew of victories. Davis' newfound perimeter game (no doubt aimed at catching the eyes of NBA scouts) is more of a detriment to the Tigers, who need the big man inside playing the post. His perimeter game isn't consistent enough to benefit LSU every night.


While I have been a bit critical of Davis in recent weeks, you can't entirely fault the big man for taking a lot of shots from the outside. It's not like anyone else is making them, either – on a consistent basis, that is.


Terry Martin burst on the scene as the guy who would knock down the open three, much the way Darrel Mitchell did. That hasn't been the case, though. Sure, Martin will heat up every now and then, but it is generally feast or famine.


Then there is the defense.


Brady's teams have always been defensive minded, and the 10th-year coach stresses that above all else. But it is obvious these Tigers are missing Tyrus Thomas in their interior defense. Magnum Rolle was supposed to step into the hole Thomas left vacant. That hasn't been the smoothest of transitions – and it shows.


Then, on top of all of this, toss in the fact LSU hasn't gotten a break. The Tigers have been awfully unlucky, and the list of misfortunes continues to grow. A year ago, Darrel Mitchell bailed LSU out on a number of last-second shots. Things had a habit of going LSU's way on its run to the Final Four.


Nothing has seemed to go Brady's and the Tigers' way this season. Under Brady, LSU typically has been a strong team coming down the stretch. Tiger fans had better hope that is the case this February.



From the mailbag:


I am having a difficult time understanding exactly why Nick Saban is being ridiculed in most major media outlets for leaving his post as the Miami Dolphins head coach to take the same position with the University of Alabama. 


I will grant you that on December 21, he did say, "I guess I have to say it.  I'm not going to be the Alabama coach."  And yes, on January 3, he did indeed take the job at Alabama.  Please inform me of how he should've handled this situation. 


Or for that matter, how you would have handled it if put in Coach Saban's shoes.


It's a Catch 22.  If he is honest with the media and admits that he is interested in exploring his options, he will lose all credibility with his current Dolphins players.  And what if he decided to stay in Miami, would he ever be able to regain control of a team that thinks he has one foot out the door?


Let me put it another way.  If one of my sales reps comes to me saying that he is interviewing for a similar position with one of my competitors, I would start the interview process to find his replacement.  Let's assume for a minute that my sales rep comes back to me a week later and says that he wants to stay.  In the back of my mind, I know that he is unhappy and it's just a matter of time before he is gone.  Am I going to pretend that we never had the conversation just because he has decided to stay?  Certainly not.


If Nick Saban is such a bad guy, then why did Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga give Coach Saban his blessing to leave?  At the end of the day, this is an issue between the Coach and the Owner.  And if the Owner is OK with it, why aren't you?


Jim Willson

Seattle, WA




Matt Deville is the editor of Tiger Rag magazine. Reach him at

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